18th Sunday Year A - Homily 3

Homily 3 - 2014

We may not always listen carefully to the Readings, but most of us remember snatches of the hymns we sing. In this morning’s First Reading, Isaiah had God saying, Come to the water, you who are thirsty. Though you have nothing, I bid  come, and be filled with the goodness I have to offer. Come! Listen! Live!

Listen! It sometimes hard to listen, hard to hear God saying, “You have nothing, nothing! And that is OK – I know that.” It is not a question of what we deserve or what we merit. All we need is to recognise that we are thirsty, and that we can bring nothing. It is not tit-for-tat. It is all gift – God’s gift. God wants us simply to live. Yet, instead of listening to God, we tend so easily to remain absorbed in ourselves. We focus on our failings, our constant distractions at prayer, our obsessive measuring of how well we are going. Instead of listening to God, we switch off immediately and let our ‘inner critic’ drown out what God is saying.

As God said through Isaiah, Pay attention, come … listen. The challenge, then, is to keep our gaze on God. It feels so counter-intuitive. Obsessively, we look at ourselves – and that is bad news. That is not the Gospel – the Gospel is Good News. Unconsciously, perhaps, we are scared – scared to believe that we are loved unconditionally. Yet, whatever about us, that is the way God is. God is love. God cannot but love. St John memorably said in one of his epistles that what matters is not our love for God but God’s love for us

The Second Reading today from St Paul makes the same point. Paul was simply carried away by the reality of Christ’s love and the wonder of it, Nothing can come between us and the love of Christ. And, in case someone might be like my father who had a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart but felt much less secure about God the Father, Paul went on to add, Nothing can come between us and the love of God, made visible in Christ Jesus. There is no difference between Christ’s attitude and that of his Father.

Look especially at today’s Gospel. Jesus saw the crowd. He did not start working out who deserved what. His first reaction was to see their need. His regard of love was simultaneously the regard of compassion. He healed their sick and fed them all. Were they worthy? The thought did not enter his head. 

To be truly content with that, we need to be converted, to allow ourselves somehow to be turned upside down. We need to feel the tension between spontaneous compassion and engagement [that shape us and change the world] and Send the people away to buy, without compassion or engagement [that misshapes us and leaves the world unchanged]. 

Perhaps we inevitably struggle to let go of the paradox of both/and. We are frightened of being upside down. But facing the paradox and following the gentle inner voice within is the only way to mature. Life provides the opportunities in the form of the perplexities, confusions, tragedies, sufferings and even joys that it serves up. However, if they are to work their maturing effect, they need to be pondered on over time and in stillness. We need to become contemplatives, contemplatives-on-the-run, perhaps, but contemplatives nevertheless - like Mary, of whom St Luke wrote, As for Mary, she treasured these things and pondered them in her heart.